Government of Canada

 

Back Halifax, NS

The Expert Panel for the review of environmental assessment (EA) processes met in Halifax October 3-4, 2016, for in-person sessions which included public and Indigenous presentations, a public workshop and an Indigenous open dialogue session.

The following summary presents the comments and input received throughout these in-person engagement sessions. It is intended to present the views of participants, and not the views of the Panel itself.

The summary is organized using the Panel’s “Suggested Themes for Discussion”, available on the Panel’s website at www.EAreview.ca.

The Panel wishes to thank all those who participated for sharing their expertise and experience at these sessions.

Environmental Assessment in Context

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

The Panel heard that not all issues should be dealt with through project EA processes as some are bigger in scope. Rather, policies for these broader issues should be put in place in order to inform what types of projects should be allowed to proceed, and therefore inform EA decisions. It was proposed that the public be provided with opportunities to participate in the development of such policies. In addition, some participants thought that a proposed project should be assessed with regard to Canada’s international obligations, before initiating the EA. Participants also mentioned that decisions regarding EAs should be sheltered from free trade agreements by ensuring that these agreements clearly recognize the sovereign right of countries to establish, adopt or modify their own levels of domestic environmental protection, including their environmental laws, policies and priorities.

There were a variety of views on what EA should achieve. The Panel heard that EA is a planning process. Others thought that it should focus on creating processes to enhance public, government and investor confidence. The Panel heard that the protection of the environment should be the main objective of EAs; that precaution should be a main concern; that scientific integrity is important if restoring trust is an objective; and that sustainability rather than significance determination should be the focus of EAs, with projects assessed based on their long term positive impacts on society.

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

The Panel heard concerns about governments managing both economic development and sustainability. It was recommended that a sustainability approach to environmental management be taken, including consideration of ecoregions, conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable sharing of resources. Social, cultural, and economic considerations within EAs were raised. Considerable criticism of what is viewed as a system that favours economic considerations over the protection of the environment was also mentioned. The Panel was urged to consider the precautionary approach and an ecosystems approach to the environment and human health.

The Panel was presented with a proposal for a holistic approach to environmental management, including a national accord between the Government of Canada, the provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous organizations that incorporates the Declaration of Human Rights, and the goals and principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In particular, it was recommended that the accord include Articles 18-20 of UNDRIP which address the need for Indigenous peoples rights to participate in decision-making through their own governance and representation. In addition, a framework for a National Federal Environmental Assessment Act was presented, including specific reference to consultation, the Honour of the Crown and equality of all Aboriginal Peoples (status and non-status Indians, living both on and off-reserve).

Overarching Indigenous Considerations

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

The Panel heard about the importance of traditional knowledge and the need for a structure that defines how it should be incorporated into EAs. Participants described the need to incorporate not only traditional knowledge but the overall Indigenous worldview and value system into EA. This system was described as an Indigenous approach to resource use based on the principle of saving for future generations. The Panel heard that there seems to be a conflict between western and Indigenous worldviews. Participants indicated that there is a need to treat both western science and traditional knowledge equally and explained the benefits of weaving traditional knowledge and western science in an integrative manner.

The Panel heard about the importance of early engagement and relationship building between Indigenous groups and industry often characterized by mutually agreed upon memoranda of understanding or impact benefit agreements. The Panel was told there is a place for impact benefit agreements within environmental assessment but that there is disparate capacity between Indigenous groups across the country to meaningfully participate in and benefit from the negotiation of these agreements.

The Panel heard that there is not enough information available during the EA review process to determine potential impacts to Aboriginal rights. Further, the Panel heard that with regard to the accommodation of impacts to Aboriginal and treaty rights, a specific mechanism, requirement or assurance needs to be in place to ensure that recommendations identified by First Nations will be followed. It was identified that rights related issues should not be dealt with through the EA process because this information can be taken out of context and used to demonstrate rights (or lack thereof). The Panel heard that meaningful consultation and accommodation must be dynamic and based on the needs for each community.

Planning of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

There were competing views shared by participants regarding the changes to EAs brought by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012). Some participants raised concerns with the loss of key triggers for EAs and suggested that lost protections from the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Fisheries Act be restored. Others thought that the format and focus of EAs under CEAA 2012 made coordination easier with other jurisdictions, and that the project list created more certainty for industry. Some participants viewed the addition of timelines as a positive outcome that increased predictability and helped proponents with the financing of projects. However, the Panel also heard that Indigenous consultation should not be constrained by the federal timelines and that there should be a way to pause the timeline for these.

Strategic EA (SEA) was mentioned as a tool that could be used to assess suitability of some development activities. Some participants supported a tiered approach; with the first tier being the development of overarching policies, the second the completion of SEA and the third the actual planning of development. The Panel heard that project EAs should build on studies done previously, and that the integration of policy, planning, and SEA should be mandated by legislation. Participants also thought that public participation should be possible for SEAs the same way it is for project EAs. Regional studies were seen by some participants as the only way to look at cumulative effects and it was proposed that the regional assessments be conducted by the government. It was also suggested that these regional studies, could be purchased by interested proponents as a way to finance them.

Some participants thought that EA should focus on fewer things studied in depth, rather than looking at a large number of issues in a superficial manner. Other participants voiced that EA should look at all effects, for example projected greenhouse gas emissions and how these emissions fit within Canada’s climate change commitments, effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and effects on human health. The Panel also heard that socio-economic impacts should be part of EAs. Specifically, concerns were raised with regard to the socio-economic impact of oil spills on Canada’s oceans and marine industry in particular on commercial fisheries.

Conduct of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

Participants advocated for a fair and transparent process, however, there were conflicting views on who should prepare the Environmental Impact Statement. Some participants raised concerns with the proponent preparing this information as they indicated consultants working on behalf of proponents were in a conflict of interest. The Panel heard that proponents often invest more resources in communication plans for proposed projects rather than doing proper impact assessments. Others thought the proponent was best placed to prepare this information as they have the resources and doing the assessment allows them to improve the design of their project. The Panel heard that government’s role should be limited to making sure Environmental Impact Statements respect guidelines. The Panel also heard that the government should outline how EAs should be conducted in Canada and issue minimal standards.

The Panel heard various concerns regarding processes led by the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. Participants indicated that there was a lack of independence from the industry and that environmental and social impacts of projects are not being properly considered.

In terms of solutions, participants thought that science should be funded publicly and that scientific capacity of the federal government should be increased. Some proposed that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ role in science and monitoring be increased.

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

The Panel heard that the federal EA process could act as a safeguard for the provincial process by requiring that a federal assessment be conducted for projects with a high risk of potential impacts. Concerns were raised about project splitting in Nova Scotia, as well as the requirements for tidal power projects that should be subject to a federal EA.

Decision and Follow-up

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

The Panel heard different points of view regarding decision making and follow-up. It was stated that decisions should be informed by clear policy objectives. Some participants thought that at present, decisions are made too quickly and are not transparent. The Panel heard that it should be possible to appeal EA decisions. Some participants thought that decision-making bodies should include representation from impacted communities. Participants also mentioned that refusing a project should be an option. It was proposed that some zones be closed to development. The Panel heard that in the current regime, it seems that every EA is about deciding on mitigation measures and that every project is ultimately viewed as good. Some were of the view that a significance determination should not be part of the Environmental Impact Assessment prepared by the proponent, but rather be in the EA report. The Panel also heard concerns related to mitigation measures for underwater seismic activity.

The type and sources of information that should be taken into account in decision making were discussed. Participants stated that science needs to be clearly reflected in decision making with more scientific accountability built into the process. Participants also mentioned the usefulness of looking at experience and expertise in other parts of the world. Others thought that discussion on the determination of significance should be using stronger reasoning and evidence. The Panel heard that EA approval and decisions should be related to project design. Finally, some mentioned that conditions should not contradict other regulatory approval requirements.

With regard to follow-up and monitoring, the Panel heard that monitoring should be independent and done continuously in order to assess impacts on the government’s various commitments. The Panel also heard that monitoring and follow-up needs to be given more attention, that data should be made publicly available, and that approvals should be reviewed every 5 years.

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

The Panel was told that follow-up is required to ensure that recommendations made by Indigenous groups are implemented. Currently, there is a lack of follow-up on projects, and the implementation of conditions of approval. Follow-up and monitoring were raised as important components of EA processes that should be mandated in the terms and conditions of project approvals to ensure oversight by those impacted. It was noted that impact benefit agreements often include a role for Indigenous groups through Environmental Monitoring Committees.

Public Involvement

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

Participants reiterated the importance of public consultation and to maintain open dialogue. It was noted that participation should be open to all those interested and not limited to certain groups. For example some noted that the Offshore Boards’ approaches to public participation should be more inclusive. Others participants were of the view that the main objective of public engagement should be to obtain social license.

The importance of early engagement was mentioned along with the need to improve the process for involving communities in the EA. Ideas provided to improve the process included: the use of social media to deal with consultation fatigue; using workshops instead of hearings as a more effective way to engage the public; clarifying what the assessment and consultation are about; and ensuring sufficient levels of participant funding to allow adequate review and comment on the EA documents.

The Panel also heard about the importance of sharing information publicly and making information available for future use. On the contrary, processes where proponents failed to provide their information on time made public participation challenging.

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

The Panel heard that the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes was taxing on Aboriginal groups, due to the limited notice, timing and availability of participant funding. Concerns were also expressed that the funding provided is not adequate to complete a review.

It was identified that several Indigenous groups and organizations are interested in the EA process and will be providing comments in writing.

Coordination

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

The Panel heard from presenters that Federal and provincial EA processes should be integrated to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Some presenters thought that strategic and regional assessments should be done under federal leadership. Finally, in the case of offshore drilling projects, the Panel heard that too many government entities were involved in EA.

Annex I

Public sessions – October 3, 2016

List of Presenters

  • Wanda Baxter, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Atlantic Chapter
  • Bruce Cameron, Envigour Policy Consulting Inc.
  • Terry Toner, NSPI (Emera)
  • John Davis, Clean Ocean Action Committee
  • Melissa Oldreive, Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE)
  • Elisa Obermann , Marine Renewables Canada
  • Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition
  • Lindy Weilgart, Dalhousie University
  • Lisa Mitchell, East Coast Environmental Law
  • Peter Puxley, Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia
  • Peter Duinker, Dalhousie University
  • Norval Collins, CEF Consultants Ltd.
  • Environmental Law Student Society, Dalhousie University

Workshop Participants

  • There were 33 participants.

Indigenous sessions – October 4, 2016

List of Presenters

  • Roger Hunka, Joshua McNeely and Jessica Seward, Maritime Aboriginal People’s Council
  • Jennifer Copage, Sipkne’katik (Shubanacadie) First Nation
  • Melissa Nevin, KMK Negotiation Office

Open Dialogue Participants

  • There were 5 participants.

Submissions Received in Halifax

Title

Author

Date Posted

View Full Submission

Follow-up for presentation in Halifax, Oct 3rd 2016

Bruce Cameron, Envigour Policy Consulting Inc.

January 04, 2017

Supporting documents for presentation by Clean Ocean Action Committee in Halifax, Oct 3 2016

John Davis for Clean Ocean Action Committee

January 04, 2017

Transcript - Public Presentations, Halifax Oct 3

Halifax Transcript

December 29, 2016

Presentation "Environmental Assessment Review CommentsFocus: Underwater Noise (seismic)" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Lindy Weilgart

October 19, 2016

Submission to the Review of Canadian Environmental Assessment Processes for Halifax, Oct. 3, 2016

Wanda Baxter, Executive Committee member, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Atlantic Chapter

October 19, 2016

Getting It Right Bringing Democracy to Decisions in Nova Scotia’s Offshore

Prepared by Peter Puxley for Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia

October 19, 2016

Submission to EA_Review Panel for Halifax, Oct. 3, 2016

Mary Gorman (Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition) / Greg Egilsson (Chairman - Gulf NS Herring Federation)

October 19, 2016

Email to Panel "Presentation to the Expert Panel - Additional Comments" Oct 4, 2016

Norval Collins, MCIP, LPP

October 19, 2016

Presentation "CEAA Submission" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy

October 19, 2016

Presentation "Presentation to Expert Panel: Bruce Cameron, Principal Consultant Envigour Policy Consulting Inc." for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Envigour

October 19, 2016

Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS)

Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS)

October 19, 2016

Presentation "Marine Renewable Energy & the Environmental Assessment Process" for Halifax, Oct. 3, 2016

Elisa Obermann

October 19, 2016

Presentation "Presentation to EA Reform Panel 3 October 2016 Halifax, Nova Scotia" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

East Coast Environmental Law

October 19, 2016

Presentation "Presentation of Peter Duinker to the Expert Panel: Review of EA Processes (2016-10-03)" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Peter Duinker

October 19, 2016

Presentation on Environmental Impact Assessment to Expert for Halifax, Oct. 3, 2016

Norval Collins, MCIP, LPP

October 19, 2016

Presentation "Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia Presentation to EA Expert Panel, Halifax, 3 October 2016" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia

October 19, 2016

Presentation By Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council To The Expert Panel Independent Review Of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act/Agency for Halifax, Oct. 4, 2016

Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council

October 19, 2016

Presentation "A Presentation to The Environmental Assessment Review Panel on the Total lack of Consideration Provided to Impacted Communities and Originating Stakeholders As Oil and Gas Resources are Developed onCanada’s Scotian Shelf" for Halifax October 3rd 2016

Clean Ocean Action Committee

October 19, 2016

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